Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Martyrs of Armenia

We should always remember the past, for if we do not it is bound to repeat itself. In light of the recent attacks on Christians in Turkey we must remember what happened to the Christian-Armenian minority in the last century.


The Martyrs of Armenia 24 April 1915

Armenia is located at the east end of modern Turkey, with some of its traditional territory now in Turkey and some across the border in the former Soviet Union. The Armenians were converted to Christianity around 280 or 290, and are accounted the first country to become predominantly Christian. Their country is located at a spot where empires have clashed for centuries, and they have often been caught in the middle. For centuries they have been dominated by their Muslim neighbors, most recently the Turks of the Ottoman Empire.

The Turks were concerned about the possibility of an Armenian revolt. In 1895 and 1896 the Turkish Army killed about 100,000 Armenian civilians. Then in 1915, early in World War I, with Turkey fighting on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary, and Russia fighting in alliance with the British and French on the other side, the Turkish government accused the Armenians of plotting with the Russians to assist a Russian invasion of Turkey. That spring, around 600,000 Armenians were killed by the Turkish Army, in an attempt to exterminate the Armenians completely. Much of the slaughter took place on 24 April 1915. The survivors were driven eastward and escaped into Russia. On 29 November 1920, most of Armenia was annexed by the Soviet Union.

It is sometimes said that the issues here were national, political, and ethnic rather than religious, and that the victims therefore do no qualify as martyrs. However, many of the Armenians, when about to be killed, were given the option of saving their lives by converting to Islam. Few did.

---- James Kiefer


O Almighty God, by whose grace and power thy holy martyrs of Armenia triumphed over suffering and were faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember them with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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